I have author friends who still won't explore Twitter world because they're convinced the social site will be a time suck and will not provide a direct benefit such as drastically increased blog traffic or book sales. I don't blame them a bit. Twitter can be addictive. It takes a long time to build the relationships that lead to more blog traffic. And book sales? Maybe, maybe not.
My original reason for exploring Twitter was to increase traffic to my blog, and also to The Blood-Red Pencil blog where I am a contributor. I also use Twitter to promote classes and workshops for Northern Colorado Writers, book signings, and books I've read and wish to recommend.
At the beginning, I spent way too much time reading tweets (messages posted by the people I follow) and searching for more people to follow. It takes time to learn the process and figure out how to efficiently use this tool while also making one-on-one contacts. It also takes time to learn who you can trust (and you shouldn't click on links until you're very sure).
Once I was past that newbie phase, I found these self-imposed rules make Twitter fun to use without taking up too much time:
1. I change my password from time to time. I don't want to lose a lot of time fixing things if my account is hacked.
2. I don't tweet the link to every blog post. I pick the ones I think will appeal most to my target audience, two or three times a week, and tweet that link one to three times during the day.
3. I check to see who has recently included my Twitter ID in a tweet (by clicking on my ID in the sidebar). I acknowledge these with a reply when appropriate.
4. Then I quickly scan three or four pages of recent tweets. If I see a comment or question of interest, I reply. If I have something to say or ask, I'll post a note on that subject.
5. I try to hold myself to ten or fifteen minutes per session.
Like Facebook and other social media sites, Twitter will eat up as much time as you allow. You need to invest a lot of time at the beginning, perhaps the first three months. After that, it's up to you. Are you strong enough to set time limits? Powerful enough to resist the fun extras and stick to the plan? If so, try it out.